A series of mutants of Escherichia coli, combining defects in either of the two phosphate transport systems with defects in one or more of the potassium transport systems, was used to study the nature of the previously observed obligatory requirement for each one of these ions in the transport of the other. The results show that no pair of systems is obligatorily linked, and that either ion can be transported by any one of its systems, provided that a means of entry for the other ion is available. Furthermore, in the total absence of Pi, K+ entry accompanies the transport of other anions, such as aspartate, glutamate, sn-glycero-3-phosphate and glucose 6-phosphate. The results indicate that Pi and the other anions enter by symport with protons, and that a simultaneous K+/H+ exchange, which would serve to maintain the intracellular pH, is responsible for the observed K+ ‘symport’ with these anions.

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